The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi baseball team heads to Central Arkansas this weekend looking to put last weekend's series with UT Arlington behind it and make a push for the upcoming Southland Conference Tournament to be held at Whataburger Field the last weekend of May.
The Islanders (18-27) fell to 8-16 in the Southland Conference last weekend and remain just three games out of the final spot in the upcoming eight-team tournament.
"Coming off of last weekend the guys are anxious to get back on the field and put last weekend behind them," said Islander head coach Scott Malone. "They know we need to perform at a higher level if we want to reach our goals."
A&M-Corpus Christi continues to be one of the top offensive teams in the Southland Conference with a .310 average and 488 runs scored. The Islanders lead the Southland in triples and are currently 13th in the nation in the category with 20.
Individually, Trey Hernandez continues to power the Islander offense as he leads the team with 14 home runs and 53 runs batted in. The junior is hitting .382 in Southland Conference games pacing the team and is batting .352 overall. Caleb Marx leads the team with a .380 average, while Matt Holland is hitting .374 as eight regulars are hitting .294 or better.
Jacob Perales has been on a tear as of late as well. The junior was named the league hitter of the week on Monday as well as the College Baseball Foundation's National Honor Roll. He hit .526 in three games and recorded the first cycle (a single, double, triple and home run) in the same game by an Islander since 2005 and nearly did it in back-to-back contests. Perales homered in three straight games and finished the week with 13 RBI and 10 runs batted in.
The Islanders will need their pitching staff to return to their form from prior to the UTA series when they had an 4.37 ERA during an 8-game stretch. A&M-Corpus Christi took 2-of-3 from Southeastern Louisiana during that time. Lefty Jake Liedka will start the opener and is tied for the team lead with three wins. Brandon Orr will start on Saturday and Adam Hoelscher on Sunday.
"We are sending seniors Liedka and Orr to the mound in the first two games," said Malone. "We are expecting them to give us a great chance to win the first two games."
UCA has struggled this season and is tied with UTSA for last in the SLC. The Bears have won one series in league play and sit at 5-19. They are 14-30 overall.
The Bears have struggled on the mound and at the plate. They have a 6.91 team ERA and a .278 team batting average, which is second to last in each category. Four regulars are hitting over .300 for the Bears led by Clay Washington with a .341 mark. Bobby Pritchett, who is slated to start the series opener, leads the Bears with a 4-1 record.
The game times for the series have been adjusted on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's game is slated for a 6:30 p.m. start due to multiple events on the Central Arkansas campus, while Sunday's game is at 11 a.m. to accommodate the Islanders departure plans.